Workshop photos: 28,800,000 Percent

It’s been a week full of teaching for me. First I gave a lecture on flash composites at Adorama on Monday, where I also taught the additional, MacGyver-friendly lessons that yes, you can use an Adorama plastic bag as a flash modifier, and yes, you can use gaffer tape to mend a pair of jeans. It’s the photographer way.

Then came the big show, a day-and-a-half-long workshop aimed squarely at photographers knee-deep in the business of wedding photography. This was a more talking-heavy workshop than some of my previous ones, since I wanted to share any and every business trick I’ve learned along the way to building a successful photography business — and I left nothing out. I don’t have any secrets — if you want to be a successful photographer, work hard, capitalize on whatever luck you have, and don’t stop working hard. That’s about it. If your business model is based on not letting your competition find out your secrets, then, in the Information Age, you might be on shaky ground.

Still, we did some shooting, because we’re photographers after all, and I wanted to show both how I work with clients, and some of the things I do to solve problems in photography. The first is how I stopped being a slave to the sun. If you only like shooting outdoor portraits at golden hour, then you’re going to run into some interesting problems on hectic wedding days — or maybe even cause them. Sometimes you’re going to be forced to shoot at noon, and sometimes the best decision will be to shoot in the dark.

Since it was a night-and-day workshop, we got to tackle both. First, night:

We did a number of different night tricks; this one was based on the idea that sometimes your best friend at night is as weak a light source as possible. To get the tonality I wanted from the background, I had my Litepanel Micropro, which was my key light, just about set to “OFF.”

Next, day:

Wait … day?

Yes, I wanted to show that you don’t have to be afraid of daylight, that a speedlight can easily conquer the sun if you use it right, and that you can have the choice to have nice, blue skies even in a backlit, bright, cloudless mid-day sky, like we had.

But I really like to drive home a point, so I thought “Why stop at blue? Let’s take this glaringly bright sky and make it black!” So I went to 11 — f/11, ISO 200, 1/8000th of a second. Obliterating the sky. No dodging here — other than a bit of a crop, this is right out-of-camera. And it only took two SB-900s to light.

Here’s the really geeky part. A few back-of-the-napkin calculations showed me that in the first photo, my exposure settings are 288,000 times as light-sensitive as in the second photo. With the right techniques, we really can conquer any situation, day or night. More important is that they’re still compelling photos, thanks mostly to my wonderful subjects, Mae and Kelly.

Who said mixing linear and logarithmic math couldn’t be cool. Am I right?

Well, I think it’s cool.

Kat Braman - you are a genius. please have another one of these soon!

Jashim - Great techniques, and great shots! Definitely learned a lot here. Thanks again for everything Ryan!

Ben Godkin - You are amazing! For a second I thought the second photo was at night with a full moon… Tricky Tricky…

Amanda Basteen - Awesome Ryan!

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ayesha - ummm… awesome!! man, i keep missing out :( next time, maybe… this is a fantastic illustration of your point. will we see more pics from the workshop?

Laura Burlton - Ryan, you just fried my brain :) Now I have sooooo many questions :)

Chris Lin - You are insane, my friend. Insane. ;-)

Drew - Great post, the power of small flashes really isn’t something to be afraid of! Great example and explanation.

dani k - I love the fact that I know almost every person who commented above me. HAHA. Anyway, great great blog post and I wish I lived close enough to attend one of your workshops. Sounds informative!


What do you think?

Timothy Kaldas - Hey Ryan, very cool examples of what you can do when you understand how to manage light well and navigate your gear. I love the daytime shot.

Mike Paulie - I hope you will do this wedding photography workshop again next year, it’s really awesome that you share what you’ve learned with everyone.

Mark - So did you use standard HSS or was there some other trickery involved?

Ive managed to get 1/1500th with my G11 (electronic shutter) using a sync cable. It will actually sync faster than that but the shutter starts getting faster than the flash duration and you start losing power.

Thomas Lester - Nice. I love it the simplicity of a shot that you lose everything but the subject.

Jason Lloyd - Talk about nailing home a point…. that’s a pretty impressive example Ryan! Now, about that math?? Can you ask Tim to verify it ;o)

Josh - How about Ryan Brenizer – SLC Utah workshop!

Andy Barnhart - Wow! Some great information here! Thanks Ryan.

Razvan - That second shot is pretty amazing!

Shari - Well, I think it’s cool too. :-)

Charlotte Geary - What a fascinating and skillful comparison!

Natalie - Wow, love love love!

Robb Duncan - Nice work man.

Lisa Novakowski - Wow, this is amazing… incredible how you manipulate the light! I wish I lived closer and could take in a workshop… would you consider coming to British Columbia??

Heather Kanillopoolos - Yay for light geeks! Thanks for sharing :D

Tab McCausland - I love these photos!!! Great job :)